Sometimes, it’s kind of fascinating to know the origins of the products/projects we love. Here’s a collection of such software products/projects/companies and the stories of how they got their name.
- Programming languages
- Operating systems
- MySQL (Database management system)
- Apache Cassandra (NoSQL Database)
- Git (Version control system)
- GoLand (IDE)
- Django (Python framework)
- Chrome (Browser)
- Firefox (Browser)
- Symfony (PHP framework)
- Laravel (PHP Framework)
- Hadoop (Open source big data software)
- Skype (Instant messaging app)
- Apache (Software foundation)
- MongoDB (Database)
- Bash (Unix shell)
- Trello (Project management application)
- Ansible (Application Deployment, etc)
- Unigine (Game engine)
MySQL (Database management system)
Michael “Monty” Widenius is one of the founders of MySQL, which is named after his daughter My.
Fun fact: Monty is also the lead developer for MariaDB, a fork of MySQL named after his younger daughter Maria.
Git (Version control system)
Linus Torvalds (Developer of Git) has quipped about the name git, which is British English slang for a stupid or unpleasant person. Torvalds said: “I’m an egotistical bastard, and I name all my projects after myself.” First ‘Linux’, now ‘git’. The man page describes git as “the stupid content tracker”.
GoLand is a cross-platform IDE by JetBrains aimed at providing an ergonomic environment for Go development. Initially the name was Gogland, from the Gogland Island in the eastern Baltic Sea, near St. Petersburg. But later IDE was renamed to GoLand.
Ubuntu (Operating system)
The OS was named after the Southern African philosophy of ubuntu (literally, ‘human-ness’), which Canonical Ltd. suggests can be loosely translated as “humanity to others” or “I am what I am because of who we all are”.
Java (Programming language)
The language was initially called Oak after an oak tree that stood outside the office of James Gosling, developer of Java. Later the project went by the name Green and was finally renamed Java, after Java coffee.
Python (Programming language)
In the words of Guido Van Rossum, developer of Python:
“In December 1989, I was looking for a “hobby” programming project that would keep me occupied during the week around Christmas. My office … would be closed, but I had a home computer, and not much else on my hands. I decided to write an interpreter for the new scripting language I had been thinking about lately: a descendant of ABC that would appeal to Unix/C hackers. I chose Python as a working title for the project, being in a slightly irreverent mood (and a big fan of Monty Python’s Flying Circus).”
Ruby (Programming language)
The name “Ruby” originated in an online chat session between Yukihiro Matsumoto (Developer of Ruby) and Keiju Ishitsuka on February 24, 1993, before any code had been written for the language. Initially, two names were proposed: “Coral” and “Ruby”. Matsumoto chose the latter in a later e-mail to Ishitsuka. Matsumoto later noted a factor in choosing the name “Ruby” – it was the birthstone of one of his colleagues.
Translated chat from when the name was decided and the email they shared. The original conversation was in Japanese.
Scala (Programming language)
The name Scala is a portmanteau of scalable and language, signifying that it is designed to grow with the demands of its users.
Django (Python framework)
The framework was named after guitarist Django Reinhardt.
An answer from Glen Murphy, a design lead for Google Chrome, when asked how Chrome got its name:
“We had a ‘pick a codename’ vote early in the development cycle – the names that came of that competition were so terrible that we were all pretty happy when one of the leads overrode it and declared that the codename would be ‘Chrome’, presumably because he likes fast cars.”
The history of the name Mozilla goes all the way back to the internal codename for the original 1994 Netscape Navigator browser, with the name meaning “Mosaic killer” and aiming to some similarity with the building-crushing Godzilla, as the company’s goal was to displace NCSA Mosaic as the world’s number one web browser. The name Mozilla was revived as the 1998 open sourcing spinoff organization from Netscape.
The name “Firefox” (a reference to the red panda) was chosen by Mozilla for its similarity to “Firebird” (which was the former name of Firefox), but also for its uniqueness in the computing industry as the name Firebird clashed with the open source Firebird database. The name “Firebird” itself was picked because it was another name for a “Phoenix” (which was the browser’s name prior to Firebird). “Phoenix” was chosen as it was the browser that rose from the ashes of the Mozilla browser, however a trademark infringement complaint from Phoenix Technologies prompted the name change to Firebird.
Symfony (PHP framework)
The first name was Sensio Framework, and all classes were therefore prefixed with
sf. Later on when it was decided to launch it as an open source framework, the brainstorming resulted in the name symfony (being renamed to Symfony from version 2 and on), which matches the existing theme and class name prefixes.
Laravel (PHP Framework)
“When trying to think of names, I thought about the geography of Tolkien’s Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. In Narnia, Cair Paravel is the name of the castle where the kings and queens of Narnia live. Laravel rhymes with Paravel. I thought the name had a classy and sophisticated ring to it.” — Taylor Otwell (Creator of Laravel)
Hadoop (Open source big data software)
The name Hadoop is not an acronym; it’s a made-up name. The project’s creator, Doug Cutting, explains how the name came about:
The name my kid gave a stuffed yellow elephant. Short, relatively easy to spell and pronounce, meaningless, and not used elsewhere: those are my naming criteria. Kids are good at generating such. Googol is a kid’s term.
Skype (Instant messaging app)
The name for the software is derived from “Sky peer-to-peer”, which was then abbreviated to “Skyper”. However, some of the domain names associated with “Skyper” were already taken. Dropping the final “r” left the current title “Skype”, for which domain names were available.
The name Adobe was derived from Adobe Creek, a river or creek that ran behind the house of John Warnock, one of the founders. But where is Adobe Creek? It’s located in Los Altos, California.
Apache (Software foundation)
According to the FAQ in the Apache project website, the name Apache was chosen out of respect to the Native American tribe Apache and their superior skills in warfare and strategy. The name was widely believed to be a pun on ‘A Patchy Server’ (since it was a set of software patches).
Coined by Bill Gates to represent the company that was devoted to microcomputer software.
Zend Technologies (Organisation)
The word “Zend” has been derived from the names of Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans, the two founders of the organisation.
It has been derived from xerography, a word derived from the Greek xeros (dry) and graphos (writing).
Debian (Operating system)
Debian was first announced on August 16, 1993, by Ian Murdock, who initially called the system ‘the Debian Linux Release’. The word ‘Debian’ was formed as a portmanteau of the first name of his then-girlfriend Debra Lynn and his own first name.
“MongoDB” derives from the word “humongous” because of the database’s ability to scale up with ease and hold very large amounts of data.
Apache Cassandra (NoSQL Database)
As per Greek mythology, Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam of Troy. She could accurately predict the future but nobody believed her. It’s not entirely clear whether the name was given to the data store because of this, but one reasoning is that NOSQL database solutions are inevitable for today’s and future data needs, but there is a big resistance (or disbelief) from the traditional RDBMS world.
Macintosh (Personal computers)
The Macintosh project was begun in 1979 by Jef Raskin, an Apple employee who envisioned an easy-to-use, low-cost computer for the average consumer. He wanted to name the computer after his favorite type of apple, the McIntosh, but the spelling was changed to “Macintosh” for legal reasons as the original was the same spelling as that used by McIntosh Laboratory, Inc., the audio equipment manufacturer. Steve Jobs requested that McIntosh Laboratory give Apple a release for the name with its changed spelling so that Apple could use it, but the request was denied, forcing Apple to eventually buy the rights to use the name.
Haskell (Programming Language)
The team that developed Haskell initially settled on the name “Curry”, after American mathematician Haskell Curry, whose work heavily contributed to the development of functional programming paradigm. However, the team then had the opportunity to “sleep on it” for the night, after which a committee member pointed out that “The Tim” is a very popular abstract machine. And so the team decided to change the name to Haskell to avoid user associating the language with actor Tim Curry, then best known for playing Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Reference: Professor John Hughes
C# (Programming Language)
The original codename for the language is “cool” which stand for “C like Object Oriented Language”. However, due to legal and copyright issues, Anders Hejlsberg (Creator of C#) and his team were forced to come up with a new name. They decided to call their new language as C# as the ‘#’ symbol looks like two ‘++’ stacked on one another, indicating that C# is an increment of C++.
Bash (Unix shell)
As a replacement for Bourne Shell (named after its creator Stephen Bourne), Bash stands for Bourne Again SHell, a pun on the phrase “born again’.
Trello (Project management application)
Trello was code named Trellis when it was in development. It got that name because one of Fog Creek’s co-founders, Michael, suggested it as a code name in an early meeting. It was fine. It stuck. However, they couldn’t buy the domain name trellis.com or anything similar. So, they ended up buying trello.com and hence modified the name to Trello.
Lua (Programming Language)
Lua is a scripting language created by Brazilians Roberto Ierusalimschy, Luiz Henrique de Figueiredo, and Waldemar Celes. Lua is a Portuguese word which means “moon”; this naming choice reflects that the language was partially inspired by SOL, which means “sun” in Portuguese. The authors of the language kindly request that you write it as “Lua” and not “LUA”.
Ansible (Application Deployment, etc)
Ansible, originally created by Michael DeHaan, is a project that helps to automate configuration management and application deployment. The inspiration for its naming comes from a sci-fi device called the ansible, which allowed for instantaneous communication over vast distances. The device shows up in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and was originally conceived by Ursula K. Le Guin in Rocannon’s World.
Kotlin (programming language)
The name comes from Kotlin Island, near St. Petersburg. Andrey Breslav mentioned that the team decided to name it after an island just like Java was named after the Indonesian island of Java. (though the programming language Java was perhaps named after the coffee.)
Unigine (Game engine)
Unigine is a proprietary cross-platform game engine, developed by Russian software company Unigine Corp. The name “Unigine” means “universal engine” or “unique engine”.
Do you have some more products/projects/companies to add which have interesting origin to their name? Please go ahead, add it to this list and raise a pull-request.
MIT © Amit Merchant